I'd bet you have asked yourself these questions in one form or another over the last several years...when the subject is health care costs. Besides being a never-ending political hot button, those of us living in the real world have to deal with a system that is either broken, or at the very least dysfunctional. Even if you are lucky enough to still have a strong policy through a job or pension, every year there is an increase in costs and a decrease in benefits or coverage.
Costs Are Insane
My wife and I have been in the individual health insurance market for 31 of our almost 35 years of marriage. Today, just paying the premiums on policies with very high deductibles and no drug coverage consumes 20% of our gross income each year. Even with me covered by Medicare in 3 more years, by the time my wife is old enough for coverage I expect we'll be forking over closer to 30%. A simple 2 or 3 day stay in a hospital costs more than $10,000. The average hospital stay in this country is 5 days and the cost is $24,000. Two years before she died my Mom broke her leg. The cost was $110,000. Note I said she broke her leg...she didn't have a heart transplant or anything fancy. Just a broken bone that we probably all have had at least once while growing up.
Those numbers make no rational sense. The entire system is based on the premise that those without insurance pay more than those with coverage. Hospitals agree to provide certain services and costs paid for by an insurance company at an extreme discount and then make their profit on hugely inflated charges that you have to pay.
We all have to take responsibility for keeping as much of our money out of the pockets of doctors, hospitals and insurance companies. Exercise, eating well, keeping stress low, and so on are steps every one of must and can take to prevent financial ruin from a preventable health issue. Joan's Boomer Blog recently had a good link to a list of health sites for seniors. If you didn't see it click here as a good starting point.
Your Turn To Help Us All
My questions for you, though, are more basic. Since we are all in this together maybe we can learn from each other. Maybe you have discovered a way to get decent health care without filing for bankruptcy. Maybe you have a horror story about costs or health care problems you want to scream about from the rooftop. How exactly do you cover your health care costs?
One favor: please avoid blaming a political party, president, or policy. While there is plenty of blame to go around and this problem has been festering for years, that is not my goal with this post. I hope we can help each other by comparing our situations.
Look at each of these scenarios. Which one describes you? Please answer one or more of the questions under that heading. You can leave your comment anonymously if you'd like. But, I really hope we can get a dialog going about this issue and share strategies.
If you are covered by Medicare:
- Do you have supplemental coverage?
- Do you purchase Part D?
- Do you use an Advantage policy instead?
- Are you worried about restrictions on what is covered?
If you are in the individual market (insurance not provided by work or government):
- How rapidly are your premiums increasing each year?
- What benefits or costs have increased while the policy gets more expensive?
- Are you afraid your insurance company will stop covering individuals?
If you are covered through work or a pension:
- Has coverage changed since you left work?
- Have your costs gone up?
- Are you worried your company may eliminate health coverage?
If you have no insurance (like 45 million of us):
- Are you skipping medical tests, procedures, and pills due to cost?
- What would you do if hit with a major medical expense?
- Do you use the emergency room for treatment of non-emergencies?
I really am looking forward to lots of comments and lots of feedback. Be as open as you are comfortable being in explaining your situation and answering these questions. I can't think of a subject that affects a satisfying retirement any more than this.